Behind The Scenes

Faster than a speeding stenographer: Kiper shares knowledge at 350 WPM

Viewers of ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage are familiar with the rapid-fire delivery of draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., but how fast does Kiper really talk?

Mel Kiper Jr. makes his points with speed and precision.

During a recent media conference call previewing ESPN’s NFL Draft coverage, Kiper answered more than 50 questions in a two-hour stretch, and at least one stenographer was having a tough time keeping up due to the sheer speed of Kiper’s speech.

Kristin Cawley works for ASAP Sports, a company ESPN’s Communications department hires to do transcripts of media conference calls. She has transcribed media availabilities from nearly every sport in more than 20 years and ranks Kiper as one of the most difficult to do.

A central part of ESPN’s NFL Draft programming since 1984, Kiper’s knowledge of past, current and up-and-coming NFL players is vast. In addition to the challenge of keeping up with him as he dissects the skill sets of NFL prospects, accurately transcribing the names of players in question, is sure to put any stenographer to the test.

“I used a stenotype machine which is what court reporters use in court, and we’re all certified at 225 words a minute,” Cawley said.

“That just means how fast we can write with 99 percent accuracy. Anything over and above that, we can still get it, but the faster it gets, the sloppier it gets, and if it gets too fast, there’s only really so fast that your fingers will go.

“So then you start to get drops, where you literally can’t keep up, and that usually happens at somewhere around the 300 words a minute mark.”

That’s where Kiper’s delivery presented a challenge.

“So Mel would start out and it was like ‘OK, I’m going to get this whole thing,’ and then that word-per-minute counter would start to ramp up and pretty soon it was over 300 words a minute,” she said.

“I had to literally go through the entire transcript with my audio backup and fill in all the spots that I missed. That word counter was frequently up in the 350 [WPM] range.

“Most people talk at about 180 words-a-minute, and that’s not a problem for any of us, but when you start getting up there in that 300-350 range, it’s really, really a challenge,” she said.

To hear for yourself, a full audio replay is available at ESPN MediaZone.

To view the full transcript of the conference call, click here.

Allison Stoneberg also contributed to this story.

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